by Lisa Sorg
FIVE COUNTY STADIUM/ ZEBULON—I went to baseball game this afternoon and a hockey match broke out.
Wild pitches, wild tempers and wild wind prevailed at the Carolina Mudcats’ homely contest versus the Huntsville Stars, which featured two ejections, a hit batter and Juan Francisco’s ballsy slide across the plate to score the winning run in the bottom of the ninth.
The final score was 7-6, but Mudcats’ manager David Bell and starting pitcher Jordan Smith also had scores to settle with home plate umpire Jason Cooksey. Bell and Smith were both ejected in the top of the sixth inning after heated arguments with Cooksey over a check swing. Bell bellowed at Cooksey so close to his face that he probably could have counted Bell’s fillings. (Gold, mercury or white? Inquiring minds want to know.) Finally, the Mudcats’ coaching staff sped onto the field to restrain Bell, who had become so overheated that it appeared he might punch Cooksey in the face.
And all of this, ladies and gentlemen, on Education Day, when 3,000 schoolchildren had converged on the park. They got an education, all right: Fighting and bad behavior is for adults only.
Yet, Bell and Co. had other reasons to hit the boiling point: In an ugly third inning, Huntsville scored four runs after Smith allowed three singles and a three-run homer by Drew Anderson (emulating the sportsmanship of the grownups, the kids booed) and hit center fielder Lorenzo Cain.
After Smith got the boot, left-hander Camilo Vasquez took the mound, pitching 10 consecutive balls, including one that nearly beaned Cain (he must have felt like a marked man). Vasquez, who entered the game with an ERA of 10.8, faced just three batters—all walks—before he was yanked in favor of Federico Baez.
As for the Mudcats’ bats, they consistently connected off pitchers Bobby Bramhall and Robert Hinton, racking up 11 hits; unfortunately, they hit the ball—many of them pop flies pummeled by 30 mph wind gusts—directly at the fielders. On the ropes and down 6-4, Mudcats eventually unloaded in the bottom of the ninth, logging three run. The game, which looked to be on track for extra innings (by the 12th inning, they may have held mandatory anger management classes in the dugout), ended when Francisco, who was 0-4 for the game, singled, then made it to third on a long double by Logan Parker (he’s had a hot bat lately). Hinton threw a wild pitch—the game’s second—and Francisco squeaked under the tag at home.
Today was also Earth Day—and Trash Day at my house. And Trash Day at Five County Stadium. I was mesmerized by the buffet of garbage stirred up from the stands. I tracked dozens of napkins, straw papers, plastic bags, bird feathers, paper plates and one green Orbit chewing gum package. The detritus floated to the top of the grandstand, slammed against the protective netting and rolled like tumbleweed across the diamond. I told you it wasn't pretty.
Here's the box score.
The Mudcats finish the series against Huntsville tomorrow at 7:15 p.m.